The Crusaders scored eight tries to smash the Sharks 52-10 at Kings Park on Saturday, writes SIMON BORCHARDT.
The heartbeat design of the Sharks' charity jersey was ironic, as this defeat, their fourth in eight matches, signals the flat-lining of their Vodacom Super Rugby hopes.
The Sharks were absolutely awful and badly missed their Bok trio of Bismarck du Plessis, Frans Steyn (both suspended) and JP Pietersen (ruled out just before kick-off). So bad were they that they could not score any points when playing with 15 men against 12 and then 14 against 12.
The Crusaders, in contrast, were red-hot from the start, scoring two tries in the opening five minutes. First, they went wide to David Havili, who passed inside to Kieran Read. The No 8 drew SP Marais and put Andy Ellis away under the crossbar. Then, a poor pass from Kyle Cooper close to his tryline saw Cobus Reinach get man and ball. The Saders forced the turnover and Israel Dagg cantered over soon after. Cooper's early lineout throwing wasn't much better than his passing, as he failed twice to find his jumpers.
Pat Lambie missed with his first penalty attempt, before slotting his second, from straight in front, to put the Sharks on the board. But more poor play from his side resulted in a 5m scrum for the Crusaders in the middle of the field, and they took full advantage with Kieron Fonotia scoring their third try.
The Crusaders secured the bonus point in the 34th minute when Ryan Crotty crashed over to make it 28-3, but were then reduced to 13 men when Nepo Laulala and Fonotia were yellow-carded in quick succession for not using their arms in the tackle. That became 12 when Nemani Nadolo was binned for kicking the ball away and preventing the Sharks from taking a quick penalty tap.
There was more drama to come, though, as Jean Deysel was red-carded in the last play of the half for a brainless knee to the head of Matt Todd, who was lying defenceless on the ground.
Things got worse for the Sharks as they conceded three tries early in the second half, with Colin Slade collecting his own chip kick, Havili getting over in the corner, and Todd breaking away through the middle of a lineout.
Odwa Ndungane finally crossed the line for the Sharks, but yet another handling error in the last minute of the game allowed Tom Taylor to race away to score the Crusaders' eighth try, which took them past the 50-point mark.
Sharks – Try: Odwa Ndungane. Conversion: Fred Zeilinga. Penalty: Pat Lambie.
Crusaders – Tries: Andy Ellis, Israel Dagg, Kieron Fonotia, Ryan Crotty, Colin Slade, David Havili, Matt Todd, Tom Taylor. Conversions: Slade (5), Taylor.
Sharks – 15 SP Marais, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Waylon Murray, 12 André Esterhuizen, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Pat Lambie (c), 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Jean Deysel, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Marco Wentzel, 4 Mouritz Botha, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Kyle Cooper, 1 Beast Mtawarira.
Subs: 16 Franco Marais, 17 Thomas du Toit, 18 Matt Stevens, 19 Lubabalo Mtyanda, 20 Renaldo Bothma, 21 Conrad Hoffmann, 22 Fred Zeilinga, 23 Jack Wilson.
Crusaders – 15 Israel Dagg, 14 David Havili, 13 Kieron Fonotia, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Nemani Nadolo, 10 Colin Slade, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Matt Todd, 6 Jordan Taufua, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Ben Funnell, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Subs: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Joe Moody,18 Owen Franks, 19 Jimmy Tupou, 20 Richie McCaw, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Tom Taylor, 23 Nafi Tuitavake.
Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images